Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Empty Shock Value of Johnny Ryan's Latest, "Porn Basket," Comic--A Review

"Porn Basket," is the title of Johnny Ryan's latest work. Released by Fantagraphics Underground (FU) imprint of Fantagraphics, it was limited to just 1,200 or so copies, and the store I ordered it from somehow managed to get a copy for me despite allocations due to a lot more folks than Fantagraphics anticipated wanting this. I've been a minor fan of Ryan's work for years. Sometimes he does something really clever and over-the-top in his works and other times it comes off as desperate to be edgy at the expense of some imaginary person clutching their pearls from offended sensibilities at Ryan's creations. "Porn Basket," is a sketchbook of sorts as opposed to actual comic strips. Everything just takes up a page or a two-page spread. The book also features Ryan, "Going there," as much as he can.

Ryan wants to offend everyone. Liberals, conservatives, white, black, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish--anybody you can think of. If this means drawing a satanic symbol on a copy of, "Anne Frank's Diary," while it gets pooped on by Yoda, he'll do it. Well-known meme Pepe the Frog with an erection that looks like a World Trade tower being flown into? Ryan won't shy away from it. Abortion jokes? George Zimmerman as a surreal heroic figure punching youth of color? Ample Nazi symbols just for shucks? Ryan won't hesitate to show them. He's so busy often drawing really offensive stuff it loses any meaning. It's trying to be the wildest and disgusting thing possible but it's little more than empty shock value. Also, he really makes fun of Nickelodeon a lot, making me wonder what his beef is with that channel. Here is maybe the one safe-for-work strip he does at their expense (others are quite bloody or raunchy):

Ryan's going, "What horrible things can I put pen to paper for?" in this sketchbook and that's about it. There is no deeper meaning beyond, "Look at me making fun of Trump/Seth Rogen/Ruth Bader Ginsburg/Leonard Cohen/etc. or, "I have bugs shooting out the orifices of an infant while the parent screams in disgust, aren't I stinker?" Ryan is so busy attempting to disgust us the whole thing is just numbing in its inane grotesque presentation. You're just bored at a certain point, saying, "Oh, this time Ryan combined a 9/11 and bestiality joke by having a first responder at the WTC getting oral sex from an American Eagle. Whatever."

The thing about all this is Ryan really can draw when he wants to. He can make things look realistic, cartoony, or just generally impressive. When he takes a moment to just illustrate a cool castle or show his chops it is a treat. Ryan is a skilled illustrator and when he takes a break from trying to be nasty (or even when he's being nasty) his stuff is usually gorgeous. Look at this amazing sketch of Marvel's Man-Thing for example:

Hence, within, "Porn Basket," we get all style (good drawing) and no substance beyond, "This is some nasty shit!" Ryan excels at drawing things like Trump being surprised at Hillary Clinton forcing him to give her a handjob with a secret penis or portraying a seal with a massive vulva that men can't resist masturbating themselves over, but other than being drawn with skill there just isn't much to this sketchbook. If you want to be able to repeatedly say while stifling a yawn, "Yeah, that's offensive," every time you turn a page in, "Porn Basket," you can try to find a copy in stores or via the internet. You honestly aren't missing much if you skip out on this though. It's for Johnny Ryan completionists only.

2 out of 5 stars.

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